An Unethical Writing Practice

More writers are asking people to submit answers, opinions and comments to them, then publishing the articles they receive and earning money for work they had no part in producing.

There seem to be an increasing number of people writing on Medium who are engaging in one of the laziest and unethical methods of earning money I have seen to date. Perhaps they honestly don’t understand that this is not okay so I thought I’d take a minute to point out the problem.

The practice I’m referring to is when a writer solicits other people’s opinions, comments, confessions, admissions, replies and responses, then publishes them as locked stories they can earn money from. Let me sum up the basic message here — This is not ethical and if you are doing it, please stop.

I have seen different degrees of this as I go about my daily reading. Some people write articles that start by saying something like, “There are a lot of quotations that exist on (fill in topic of choice). Here are (fill in number of choice) of my favorite.” They then go on to simply list the stated number of quotations without contributing anything further.

Perhaps the person will take the time to add in a bit of commentary or their own opinion, or even intro or summary paragraph. Others may contribute a chunk of the content but more than half of the article is still the work of someone else.

Then there are those who literally do not write any of what they publish. Not. One. Single. Word.

I am unsure of whether these individuals know they are engaging in something that isn’t kosher or whether they think that by including a statement at the top that somehow suggests that the content isn’t their own, it is fine to do. However, transparency does not mean that it’s then okay to publish and earn from other people’s work.

And if this isn’t bad enough, most of the people I have seen who do this, don’t even have the decency to join Medium or to read and engage with the work of others. Plus, they use click bait titles that seem to be personal admissions of their own, such as, “I Cheated on my Husband With 10 Famous Celebrities,” to maximize traffic. To me, this is the definition of the word blood sucker.

An example of this tactic would be someone who puts a statement at the top of the article asking readers to click here in order to submit an opinion on a topic or response to something. Perhaps they state that they will remove all names and identifying information or maybe they just ask the person to submit something anonymously. The entire article then, is something that someone else sent to them. They might do some minor editing or they might simply publish whatever they get as is.

I’ve even seen examples where the person doesn’t even put this much effort into what they publish. Instead, they simply have a statement asking readers for anonymous confessions, then publish what they get without a word of their own added.

Some may argue that if those who submit know their word is going to be published by the person requesting it, then there is nothing wrong with it. I beg to differ. This may mean it isn’t illegal, but it doesn’t make it moral or acceptable. It is earning money by taking advantage of others.

Can You Call Yourself A Writer If You Only Publish Other People’s Work?

In a word, NO.

A lot of writers worry about impostor syndrome, or the fear that they aren’t actually “real” writers if they get ideas from others or haven’t achieved certain goals such as a certain number of articles, publishing in literary journals for pay, publishing a book etc. You will often see different responses about the definition of a real writer that relate to a writer being someone who writes. Some believe this needs to be as an occupation while others think you can refer to yourself as a writer even if it’s just a hobby.

Regardless of which definition you feel is the best one, I would like to add something. A writer is someone who writes their own work. While you may not care what you are called as long as you make money from your activities, know that there are words for that kind of behavior that you may not like. These include mercenary, leech, exploitative, dishonest, parasite, unethical, and immoral among others. However, writer would not make the list.

Include An Honest Statement Saying You Intend To Profit Off of Their Effort Instead of Your Own

I have clicked the link at the beginning of these articles and usually have found nothing that clearly states what the person requesting the submissions intends to do with it. There are entire publications that exist for the sole purpose of publishing other people’s work while the owner profits from it which also have no explanation of the fact that the owner will be the only one who benefits from what is published there.

If you are one of the people who write these types of articles, minimally include a statement that describes what you are doing. For example:

“Please click here to submit the most controversial, titillating, shocking, interesting, and/or never before published stories that have the potential to go viral which I will publish under my own name without any indication of this in the title, and only a statement at the beginning that asks others to also send in their work for you to profit from, which should indicate to readers that every word of the content that follows has been written by someone else who will get no credit or benefit of any kind from it because all of that will go to me, me and only me. While you are working to make me a millionaire, I will be [relaxing at the beach, snow skiing with the Kardashians, coming up with other ways to take advantage of people for my own benefit, etc.]”

While this still doesn’t make it alright, at least you are now being honest about what you are doing.

What Should Real Writers on Medium Do?

Real Medium writers — those that actually take the time and put in the effort to create their own work — should not support these types of articles by engaging with them even to call the person who published them out in the comments. Comments are one of the types of engagement that people are paid for. Ignoring these articles and registering a complaint with Medium regarding those who publish them are the best ways to prevent people from being rewarded for them.

Take Away

When a writer gets paid for a story, it should be their work not someone else’s. I would suggest that real writers on Medium simply not clap, respond, or otherwise engage with these types of stories. While perhaps not illegal, those who earn on the backs of others are lazy cheats who are taking advantage of people who send them their work. Such individuals need to stop this practice and instead put in the effort like so many other Medium writers do regularly if they intend to benefit from what they publish.

Natalie Frank (Taye Carrol) has had work featured in Haunted Waters Press, Weirdbook Magazine, Siren’s Call Publications, Lycan Valley Press & Zero Fiction among others. Her poetry has been featured in several anthologies. She is Editor for 1-One-Infinity, The Partnered Pen & One Table, One World, and is Editor in Chief for Promposity & Mental Gecko. She is also Managing Editor for Novellas and Serials at LVP Publications. She has a Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology.

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Natalie Frank, Ph.D. (Clinical Psychology)

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I write about behavioral health & other topics. I’m Managing Editor (Serials, Novellas) for LVP Press. See my other articles:

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